The Mountain Meets the Memory

I originally planned to hike Mount Everett on Father’s Day, as a tribute to my father, Everett, who passed away over a decade ago.  As usual life had other plans for me and I found myself slogging up Mount Everett on a beautiful April day.

Wondering if I would receive a sign of my father’s spirit watching over me, Mike and I  zipped along the back roads of Connecticut into the Berkshires.  As soon as we pulled into the tiny parking area of Race Brook Falls Trail, I was slammed in the gut by the realization my dad was with me.  Only something that would have happened to my father happened to us.  A stranger stopped and asked us if we would drive him to the Undermountain Trail, as he wanted to do a point to point.  We said sure, it was just the right and the kind thing to do.  Something my dad would have  done for a stranger.  You see, my father was a generous man, especially to strangers.   Some years at our Thanksgiving table we would have a stranger share the day with us.  My dad picked up these strays in his travels as an insurance man and later as a food vendor. Everyone was made to feel welcomed and part of our family, it was important to my father that people be surrounded by family love.

So what would be the next reminder of my father on this trail?  Perhaps taking the least expected path in life and finding great joy in that?  We started hiking after dropping Rick, the stranger off and shortly on the trail sounds of rushing water jammed our ears.  We knew we had a few stream crossings on this adventure and the first one was close at hand.  What a beautiful brook that awaited us to cross.  We rock hopped and headed up straight away on the blue trail.

Mike and I noticed a sign that informed us “loop to lower falls”, a little further up.  This wasn’t on our map or in our plans.  A quick decision was made and off we went to travel this path and we were rewarded with stunning lower falls nestled into a pine needle forest floor. 

My father,  in his late 50s abruptly retired from selling insurance and became a hot dog vendor.  He took an unexpected path in his life and was rewarded with being his own boss and financial security. Glad I followed his guidance of taking the path you want and not what others deem as the one you should take.

The trail wasn’t clearly blazed but as we were scrambling up the falls we found blue/red trail markers.

We followed them till they lead us back to the blue trail.  The path guided us to Race Brook Upper Falls, a dramatic drop of water cascading down.  These falls were powerful and playful at the same time. 

My dad’s given name was Everett Lee, but everyone called him Curly.  Everett means “strong as a wild boar” and Curly was due to my dad’s shocking curly/wavy hair but it really encompassed his flirty/fun side.  If my dad wasn’t represented here on our path to hiking Everett, I don’t know where then?

After leaving the falls, we meandered through a pine forest, silence stinging our ears and pine freshness teasing our noses.

We came up on Race Brook Falls campground, complete with platforms and a privy.  Word of caution here, use nature’s outhouse if possible…that was a scary outhouse, used for other things more than a pee break.   This was at the 1.6 mile point.

Next we were to meet the junction of the Appalachian Trail at 1.9 miles that would guide us to Mount Everett.

This was a rugged gruff climb up and it kicked me in the butt, but yet rewarded me with comfort in the end.  How reminiscent of the relationship I had with my father.

My dad was tough and could be a real grouch.  He wasn’t polished; he was honest and raw, just like the rock face that I was climbing up.  He frustrated me as a teenager and I’m sure I frustrated him more as a teenager. But as in life and this climb up, I could stop to regroup, refresh, forgive and continue upwards. 

When I started to bonk on the trail, I stopped, ate and started singing “Home on the Range” in my head.  My dad had two songs he sang to all six of us kids and I’m sure we all still sing them to ourselves when we need the support of our dad.  The food and song pushed me on.

I hiked on because my dad never gave up and he wouldn’t want me to wimp out.  He was a man who at 18 entered World War II.  He was stationed in the Pacific arena on the U.S.S. Greenling after Pearl Harbor.  He faced many hardships, but was a proud man. If I couldn’t do this simple climb, that what kind of daughter did he raise?  He taught all of us to be strong, believe in ourselves and persevere.

At the top finally, we were rewarded with views of Mount Race, Round Mountain and Mount Frissel.  It was a clear day and way off in the distance the Catskills peeked through.  For all the gruffness, huffing and puffing, it is the positives of our relationship I remember the most and hold dearest to my heart.

Dad was the one who took me to my first professional ballet experience, summer mornings he always treated me  to breakfast in a restaurant before dropping me off to camp and in high school we enjoyed watching General Hospital together.  It is the time we spent sharing moments, little pieces of life  and talking about nothing and everything that remain in my soul.

Yup, the rock face was a hard hike but the views surrounding us made that climb up a distance memory.I was able to look out and reminiscence about previous hikes on those mountains that filled me with a sense of accomplishment and joy.

I made it to the top of Mount Everett as a pilgrimage to a memory of a man who was gritty, rough, playful, supportive, frustrating and soft hearted.  My father, Everett, dad, Curly was a good person, who could want for more?

Until the next hike…

The Details: Out and back from Race Brook Falls Trail head to Mount Everett.  6 miles and 5 hours with about an hour of rest/phototaking.  We started on Blue Trail to Loop Trail Red/Blue back to Blue trail to the Appalachian Trail junction. Turn north and continue to climb up to Mount Everett on the white A.T. . It took us an hour to climb up the rock part of Everett and only 40 minutes to descend it.  We returned the way we came, except didn’t do the lower falls loop back, once we hit the blue trail from the A.T. we remained on that. Strenuous climbing up to Everett.

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